Published: June/July 2008
Eastern States
Check out the season's best weekend trips near you.
Text by Christopher Percy Collier
Kayaking: Sleep in Swamplands

It started on the Roanoke River. Years back, a series of wooden platforms built along the stream allowed paddlers to camp out for multiple days in the backcountry. Now this swampland sleepover has made its way to the nearby Chowan River, a backwoods alternative to the Roanoke accessed via the kind of narrow, twisting run that local paddlers call a "trib." Rent kayaks from Durham-based Frog Hollow Outdoors and put in at Merchant Mills State Park, gliding through Millpond and Lassiter Swamp on a serpentine, moss-draped course down the tea-colored waters of Bennett's Creek ($60 for a two-day kayak rental; The 12-mile push ends at a handful of platforms on Holladay Island, a 200-acre cypress refuge on the 1.5-mile-wide Chowan. "When the wind picks up on the river, put your rudder down," cautions local paddler Bambi Edwards. "It's kind of like riding a roller coaster up and down the small swells." Holladay Island, your home for the night, was first spotted in 1586 by explorer Sir Walter Raleigh and later suspected to be the site of Edward "Blackbeard" Teach's buried treasure.

Hiking: Hike a New AT

Trails like the newly opened 39-mile Grafton Loop aren't blazed every year in the Appalachians. In fact, the last time the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) got involved in a trail-building effort on this scale, President Nixon was still in office. What's the need for a new trail? A notable lack of multiday loops in the area. Over the course of four days, the Grafton hits five major peaks, including 4,000-foot Old Speck, as well as a stretch of the Appalachian Trail, the granddaddy of American long-distance hiking routes. In June, near Lightning Ledge, trekkers can break to watch water gushing down hulking granite slabs. From Puzzle Mountain, they'll find an unspoiled view of the Mahoosics. And on the final day, they'll be rewarded with a walk through a rare tree-free alpine zone. "It is, without a doubt, the jewel of the route," says AMC trails manager Andrew Norkin.

Outdoor Cooking: Forage, Then Feast

The only difference between today's locavores and the hunter-gatherers of yore is a spear. Choose a weapon and head out on the Foraging the Forgotten Coast tour, hosted by James Beard Award-nominated chef Chris Hastings down in the Florida Panhandle (July 17-20; $1,500; Armed with a three-prong spear, participants wade out into the flats of Apalachicola Bay to stalk flounder at night, then venture to the edge of a swamp to pry tupelo honey from a beehive. Tonging—laboriously collecting oysters using giant, well, tongs—may provide the tastiest harvest of all. But no matter what you hunt and gather, Hastings will be there to expertly prepare meals, which are served in some of Florida's finest lodges. "There's become such a disconnect between people and food," he says. "Do this trip and you start to understand seasonality again. You can taste the difference."

Fly-Fishing: Fish the Motherland

Tiny Manchester (pop. 716) in southern Vermont is packed with more fly-fishing lore than any town in the country. For the complete tour, check in to the Equinox Resort ($329;, a lodge just down the road from the American Museum of Fly Fishing ($5; Don't know a dry fly from a nymph? Attend a daylong course at Orvis's flagship store, home to the oldest school in the country ($350;, then test your cast on the Mettawee River, where the fishing's far easier than on the better known Battenkill, a few towns over. Like most local streams, expect a narrow ribbon of cool, rock-studded water, not much wider than a single-lane road. Break for lunch at Mack's Market, an angler's eatery perched riverside (802-247-3440). "You can pull up a stool next to a hole in the floor and look down at the river you just fished," says Orvis clerk Tom Rosenbauer.